New Book Covers Reveal

I have waited a couple of years to change my book covers for my Sci-fi/Dystopian/Cli-fi series The Song of Forgetfulness. I just couldn’t find he right images that suggested the complexity of the narrative. I’d gone through several designs over a few years and never really liked them. I stopped promoting the books and felt quite low about the whole thing.

Until, quite by chance, when I was taking some photographs using a lens ball.

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I accidentally took my own image reflected in the glass. It was distorted and eerie.

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After tweaking it on Lightroom I realised the images would be perfect for my books and genre. Except for the prequel an apocalyptic survival story based around global warming and the effects it has on nature. The Chronicles of Mayer.

Luckily I have a lot of photographs of insects, animals and flowers. I chose a macro shot of a bumble bee to reflect the theme of the ecological dangers we are facing today. You know the saying, ‘If bees die out we are next.’

So, here are my new covers. I hope you like them.
Please feel free to comment.

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You can purchase all of my books on amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S

(If you go to the Look Inside and open it you may find that the formatting is weird. I assure you it is fine, it just looks odd on Amazon’s Product Page. The E-book interior is correct.)

New book covers

Forgotten Women Madam d’Ora – Part One

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To celebrate International Women’s Day, I thought I’d post this story about an amazing pioneering female photographer that history has forgot.

In my new book, an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, my protagonist, Leo Katz, is a photographer. Whilst researching photographers from that period, I was delighted to discover that women were emerging as professionals in this field.

One woman caught my attention, Dora Kallmus. She was extremely influential in changing the way people posed for their picture. Dora’s unique style helped to popularise the celebrity portrait, and her fashion photography broke all the rules. Yet, History has chosen to forget her.

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Born in 1881 to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Dora was clearly a headstrong young woman and knew what she wanted to do. She befriended the son of the painter Hans Makart, and whilst assisting him in his studio, she discovered the wonders of photography.

In 1905, she became the first woman allowed to study theory at the city’s Graphic Training Centre,  GraphischenLehr-und Versuchsanstalt, and in the same year was accepted as a member of the Association of Austrian Photographers. Two years later she finished an apprenticeship with Nicola Perscheid, where she learned her craft.

Although she was not allowed to do the technical training, because she was a woman, that did not stop her opening her own studio in Vienna in 1907. She brought a fellow student of Nicola Pesrcheid with her, Arthur Benda, who would remain her technical assistant throughout her early career.

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Her studio Atelier d’Ora, became a sensation, and along with Arthur Benda, Madame d’Ora’s shop was the place to go for the fashionable and cultural elite of Vienna. Her new approach to photographing a subject, natural, relaxed poses rather than the stiff, grim images people were used to, made her photographs sought after. The artist, Gustav Klimt and his muse Emilie Flöge, being some of her most famous clients.

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Dora’s Middle Class Jewish background aided her in attracting customers. Her father, Doctor Phillipp Kalmus, a respected lawyer, brought clients from the civil service, government, and the banking world. With such a notorious profile, Dora landed the job of photographing the coronation of Kaiser Karl, King of Hungary. Now she was in demand by royalty and members of the Imperial family who visited her studio to have their portrait taken.

But it was through her cousin, the acclaimed actress Rosa Bertens, that Dora broke into what was to become her trademark work. Photographing the rich and famous throughout the theatre, music, fashion and art worlds.

News of her avant-garde work spread, and customers flocked to her doors. Now everyone wanted to be photographed by Madame d’Ora, whose unorthodox compositions were the talk of the town. Attracting famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova, Josephine Baker, and, Mary Wigman. Writers such as Arthur Schnitzler, artists, Gustav Klimt, actors, Maurice Chevalier, musicians, Pablo Casals and the composer, Albern Berg.

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Her keen interest in fashion photography inspired her to change the way the industry presented their clothes. She created new ways to portray models, and her fresh ideas were soon snapped up by many lifestyle periodicals such as Die, Madame, and Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode.

Madame d’Ora became Coco Channels first choice to capture her new creations in all of their glory. All this when she was still under thirty years of age.

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In Part Two, I will focus on Dora’s later career and how she developed not only as a portrait photographer to the stars, but how the traumas of the second world war developed her career as a documentary photographer.
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If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: www.oddlybooks.com
To view some of my photography go to: 

The Man Behind the Mug Shot

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Inspiration comes at strange times on occasions. It hit me quite by chance when I was cleaning the cat litter tray. Why not write a crime thriller set in Victorian times about a photographer who has to find out who has been committing a series of murders? Wow, I thought, no one has done that before, or at least, I’ve never heard of a book quite like that.

Next I needed to set it somewhere. Vienna. Why not? After all it was the place for art and music at that time. After a bit of research, I unearthed some very interesting information about the politics of the time and how it adversely affected the Jewish population of the city. A plot was forming. The protagonist is a photographer that gets caught up in a series of brutal murders of Jewish activists in 1899 and has to solve the case via the use of photographs.

Whilst researching the history of criminal photography for the book, as yet untitled, I came upon the name, Alphonse Bertillon.  A nineteenth century French forensic documentarian.

It is thanks to this man we have access to the recording and storing of the physical details of a criminal. Before his efforts, offenders were hard to keep track of. They could give false names and addresses, so finding those who recommitted a misdemeanour, was often impossible.

Enter Bertillon.

Bertillon,_Alphonse,_fiche_anthropométrique_recto-verso-1As a records clerk at the Prefecture of Police in Paris 1879, Bertillon became irked by the chaotic way they kept criminal data. He worked on a better system to store and classify offenders to make it easier for someone to find them if they re-offended. Using his interest in anthropometry, the scientific study of the proportions and measurements of the human body, he developed a recording system for detailing the size and shape of a criminal’s distinguishing facial features.

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These facial descriptions, classified the shapes, size and breadth of the nose, eyes, ears and other facial features, which he called, “Portrait Parle”. Although the coded lexicon he Invented to use alongside his method was too difficult to use and later abandoned.

However, his idea of “Portrait Parle” lead to his definitive method of identification and recording of a suspect/criminal in the shape of the Mug Shot.

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For the first time a criminal could be photographed alongside his or her name both front and side view. Therefore, their identity could be accurately logged ready for use if they re-offended.

Bertillon’s index card system along with the photograph of the lawbreaker, identified re-offenders better than any other system before his invention, and as we know, the Mug Shot, is still used today, alongside fingerprints, to keep detailed records of criminals ready for use if needed.

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Next time, I’ll be discussing Bertillon’s influence on what we know today as Crime Scene Photography.

Here is a little taster from my book. Please bear in mind that this is just a first draft you will be reading. 

‘Oy, oy, where do you think you’re going?’

An officer broke free of the policeman chain and put his hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away and stood firm. ‘I am expected. Katz.’ I held up my case, shouting above the raised voices, ‘I’m to take images of the crime.’

‘Ah, that stuff. What do you need to do that for? The case is solved. She murdered him in cold blood. Ghoulish is what I call that.’ He pointed at my camera. ‘Some say it takes the soul from the body and the dead can’t go to heaven.’ I shook my head and sighed. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t expect a Jewboy to believe. Your lot haven’t got any souls anyway.’

Aaron stiffened and blurted out, ‘Hey, that’s not true. Take it back.’

‘Or what? Bloodsucker?’

I grabbed Aaron before he lunged towards the policeman. He relaxed a little and hung his head. ‘Do not become aggrieved at this Gentleman’s outburst. They are just words. Nothing more.’ He gulped and raised his chin.

‘Ya. Gift of the gab your lot and no mistake. Go on, get going, join your Yiddish pals.’ He spat at our feet when we shuffled past him towards the murder victim.

It was indeed a gruesome sight. I turned to Aaron. ‘You must go now. This is not a fitting thing for a boy to witness. Go home and be with your mother.’

If you would like to know more about my books, please go to my website:4632622310_242x254

www.oddlybooks.com

Light part two – Religion

I don’t know when the first religion was created, but I think one of the first things that we humans worshipped was light. Darkness is not for us. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to see in the blackness of night. It stands to reason that when the sun appears we should want to celebrate its glory.

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From Ancient Egyptians and Aztec sun gods, to modern day Druids worshiping Alban Hefin the sun king during the Summer Solstice sunrise over Stonehenge, our need for light is deep routed in our physche. We need it to grow our crops, to warm us and to make us feel happy. No wonder many images of deities show rings of dazzling light around the heads of those who are revered.

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Many religions past and present have celebrated the joys of light. Festivals and special feast days such as Diwali, a Hindu tradition where families fill their homes and gardens with candles and lamps to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, to ignite wisdom in our hearts and bring hope to our darkest hours.

A devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony during the Diwali or Deepavali festival at a Hindu temple in Colombo

The Jewish festival Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenistic Syrians. In honour of the reclaiming of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem the festival begins with the lighting of the shamash candle in the menorah.  Each night of the festival a new candle is added, lit by the middle candle, shamash until all nine candles are lit.

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In Christianity, a bright star led the three Wise Men to the birth place of Jesus. At Christmas, the time to celebrate His birth, we decorate our houses with strings of cloloured lights not only as a symbol of that lone star, but to banish the dreary dark days of winter and bring us cheer.

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Humans may believe in many different religions, but I believe we all celebrate in much the same way by using light to give praise for what we have and what we can become.

So, why not lift your head to the sky, rejoice in all the good things that you have, and let the sun kiss your skin. After all, today is supposed to be:

#InternationalDayOfHappiness

 

Look out for Part Three: The Light Within.

 

Light and writing – part one – Inspiration

Let there be light. Why? Because without it nearly all life on this planet would cease to exist. It heats, illuminates, nourishes and gives life. It also inspires works of art. As a writer, I can use light in many forms, natural, supernatural and artificial to enhance my narrative. As a photographer, well, I wouldn’t be able to take photographs without it.

In this series about light, I will be dealing with the many forms it takes. From the glowing backsides of fireflies to the many ways human beings have found to illuminate the darkness.

Nature is amazing. We humans are, for the most part, in awe of it and have been ever since we crawled out of the primal ooze. Nothing stirs the soul quite so much as a beautiful sunset, a sunrise, a mass of twinkling stars, or the constant glow of the moon.

purple sunsetThe sun gives us light and warmth, stars make us wonder about far off worlds, the moon illuminates our darkness with its wide-eyed face looking down on us like a distant mother watching her children. No wonder creative minds have used light as inspiration.

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Many writers have used light to express happiness, love, hope, expectation and joy. Just listen to some songs, the word ‘light’ comes up quite often. ‘Light my fire‘ The Doors. ‘You lIght up My Life’ Debbie Boone. ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna. ‘Shadows and Light‘ Joni Mitchel, to name but a few. The same is true of literature: ‘Northern Lights‘ PhillipPullman. ‘The Light that Failed’ Rudjard Kipling. ‘Where the Light Last and other stories‘ Agatha Christie.

In my short story Glimmer, the protagonist, a young man resisting the drugs he is given to keep him ‘sane’, retreats into his own world and listens  for the voices that come from the stars.

The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour.”

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

Watch out for Part two in the series: Religion and Light.

For more information about my work please visit my website: 

www.oddlybooks

Writers of SciFi Interview with Author Bonnie Milani

Hello everyone. I thought I would share this author interview with a fellow Sci-fi writer Bonnie Milani. 

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This Writers of SciFi Interview is with Author Bonnie Milani. Follow her at:

 Amazon Central , Twitter,  Facebook or Website.

Email address:

bonnie.milani@yahoo.com

Question 1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a Sci-Fi writer?

About the time I figured out how to put words together.

Question 2) What authors and books inspire your writing?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Dickens (baaaaadddd style to copy but addictive reading), Austen, the Bronte sisters, up through Heinlein, Asimov, Pohl, Anderson, Norton, and the writer who quite literally got me to actually start writing Sci-Fi, C.J. Cherryh.

Question 3) Are you an extrovert or introvert? How well do you like book signings and other interaction with readers?

Total extrovert. LOVE meet’n greets! LOVE signings – it’s just that I’m here in LaLa land, so there’re neither many bookstores left nor people willing to show up for a signing unless that person’s a ‘face’.

Question 4) What is unique about writing in your genre?

Sci-Fi, to me, is a technological society’s answer to the ancient world’s mythology. We can’t believe in anthropomorphic gods anymore; even accepting miracles is a challenge these days. Yet to be human is to need to let your imagination roam, to create, to explore. Sci-Fi is the one medium that lets us do so by exploring the possibilities in the tech we’re beginning to create.

Question 5) Have you ever created a character with an actor or a person you know in mind?

Only before I actually started working with the Industry.

Question 6) What inspires you to write?

Life. News magazines. History. Politics. Religion. Crazy relatives…

Question 7) Are you Self-, Indie-, or Traditionally published? Why?

Both traditionally (small press) & indie. I’m glad I went small press to start; my publisher was able to get my debut Sci-Fi novel, ‘Home World’ onto the shelves at Barnes & Noble, as well as into Canada’s Indigo chain. I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. But working Indie requires me to learn to understand the business side of publishing, and I think that’s a necessary piece of knowledge for all writers. Besides, I LIKE working on cover art!

Question 8) Do all authors have to be grammar perfectionists; or do you use a Copy Editor?

With a Master’s in Communication from Stanford, I don’t typically find grammar to be my greatest challenge in writing. There’s such a wealth of alternatives…

Question 9) “Writing is a get-rich-quick scheme.” And, “All writers are independently wealthy.” How true?

Hah! To quote Stan Lee: “’nuff said!”

Question 10) Plotter or Pantser (free flowing)? Do you write from an outline, or just start writing and go with the flow?

I tried just going with the flow when I first started writing waaaaayyyyy back in the day. Never got a story finished that way; always landed myself in a corner with no place for the plot to go. It was terribly difficult to teach myself to outline, but I’ve found the discipline of making myself work out the whole story to be invaluable. Even if the final product winds up bearing no resemblance to the outline at all!

Question 11) What is the secret to becoming a best-selling author?

You tell me we’ll both know. In truth, I believe it’s a combination of producing professional caliber work with a systematic, consistent dedication to market identification and outreach.

Question 12) Do you write book reviews? How important are reviews for your work?

Definitely! I generally won’t review a book I couldn’t finish, but I believe reviews are essential to indie authors’ success. Me, I am ALWAYS hungry for more reviews! Not that I’d stoop to hinting or anything…

Question 13) Do you have a favorite book or series you have written? Which one?

Each story I write is my favorite until the next one comes along. But I have to admit to a special fondness for ‘Liquid Gambit’. It’s the Casablanca tie-in, y’know?

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Question 14) What are you working on next?

I’m trying to clear my decks to dive back into ‘Home World’ and get the series going. I have a generation of stories in my head for that universe!

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Can cats and chickens become friends – part two.

In my previous post, you can see it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/…/can-cats-and-chick…/

I talked about my cat Kimi and how she has bonded with our new hens.

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I also mentioned that the chickens are kept away from our other cats, who aren’t as easy going as Kimi. Well, one of our feline friends got sight of our poultry for the first time and had a rather strange reaction.

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Mind you, if I were the size of Storm, the cat above, I would be a little frightened by these rather large birds with their massive feet and intense gaze.

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Just as well they have separate gardens to hang out in. Calypso and her brother, Rasky, have a more relaxed approached to these big birds.

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On another note, my bee garden is a success. It looks so pretty and is attracting all kinds of bees and other fertilising insects. It is also kept well away from the marauding chickens.

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Buck-buckaww folks!